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Gene Ther. 2003 Sep;10(18):1543-50.

Protection against collagen-induced arthritis by intramuscular gene therapy with an expression plasmid for the interleukin-1 receptor antagonist.

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  • 1ViroMed Co. Ltd., 1510-8 BongCheon-dong, KwanAk-gu, Seoul 151-818, Korea.


The interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra) is an endogenous protein that can prevent the binding of IL-1 to its cell-surface receptors. Among a number of techniques for gene transfer in vivo, the direct injection of naked DNA into muscle is simple, inexpensive and safe. In this study, we evaluated the potential of intramuscular gene therapy with plasmid DNA containing the cDNA for IL-1Ra in the prevention of murine collagen-induced arthritis (CIA). DBA/1 mice were immunized with bovine type II collagen. At 4 weeks after the initial immunization, expression plasmid for IL-1Ra was injected into four selected sites in the thigh and calf muscles of DBA/1 mice. Control mice received the same plasmid, but lacking the IL-1Ra coding sequence. Macroscopic analysis of paws for redness, swelling and deformities showed that the onset of moderate to severe CIA in the paws of mice injected with IL-1Ra DNA was significantly prevented (P<0.05). In addition, both the synovitis and the cartilage erosion in knee joints were dramatically reduced in mice treated with IL-1Ra DNA (P<0.05). The expression of IL-1beta was significantly decreased in the ankle joints of mice treated with IL-1Ra (P<0.01). Interestingly, the levels of IL-1Ra in sera and joints after intramuscular injection of IL-1Ra DNA were significantly lower than when protein had been used in previous reports, suggesting that the therapeutic effect may be achieved by an alternative mechanism(s) rather than by systemic elevation of IL-1Ra. These observations provide the first evidence that direct intramuscular injection of expression plasmid for IL-1Ra may effectively suppress the inflammatory pathology in arthritis.

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